It’s been quiet

And that’s not without a reason.

Busy

Over the last couple of months I’ve not been blogging as much as before, and the simple reason for that is that I’ve not had the time/priority. A lot of DIY construction has been going on at home, which means the weekends were full (and then some). This also resulted in an abundance of chores and things to do during week nights and that, in turn, resulted in not much time for blogging.

Over the last couple of months I’ve also ended my editor-in-chief role for our whisky club’s magazine, which is a huge relief. I didn’t particularly enjoy having that role anymore because I couldn’t give it the time, attention and priority the magazine and the club deserved.

Generally a day of ‘hard labor’ insulating, wallpapering, sanding, painting and floor-laying results in me having a few beers with whoever helped me out that day. The consequence of that was that I have not been drinking much whisky at all. And, on top of that, when I did drink a dram I simply drank a dram. Contrary to properly assessing it and writing tasting notes.

bottles

I prefer these to be fun…

Get in or get out

After coming to the conclusion of me wanting to enjoy whisky more instead of it being a chore or ‘work-like’, I had to make a decision. This happened when the latest ‘De Kiln’ from our whisky club came in. In it the new editor-in-chief wrote a headline which loosely translates to ‘Whisky: get in or get out‘. While I will spare you the explanation of what he meant, it did get me thinking (a rarity, nowadays).

By not continuously writing tasting notes, I’ve actually enjoyed the drams I’ve had more. With the vast amount of samples I’m trying to get through I have to write tasting notes because that’s the purpose of them. Also, after one glass of something, the sample is gone.

This is different for bottle-shares, but these 3cl to 5cl ‘commercial’ samples are legion in my cupboard, and I don’t really enjoy them as much as I should. Some 90-point exceptions are there of course, but as soon as it gets to an 87 point dram, or something equally arbitrary, it’s just another dram and it feels like a chore.

Am I getting out?

No. I like whisky too much and I like (parts of) the whisky ‘world’ too much. I sincerely love discovering new drams and new flavors.

Am I shutting down the blog?

No. Although I won’t be reviewing everything I try anymore. I am going to focus on the outstanding drams. I am not going to spend precious time reviewing a lot of so-so whisky, just to get a review online.

What am I going to do then?

Focus, and slow down. Focus on quality over quantity, both in what I drink and what I write about. Slowing down in frequency and in intake. Drink better but less. Buy less, but not necessarily better since I’m pretty satisfied with the quality of booze I buy.

I also have to steer away from staples like the Talisker 10 I bought recently. It’s an amazing dram for the money, but I’m not likely to ever drink it.

And, with a third kid on the way, I doubt there’s going to be much spare time for whisky tasting anyway…

Sorry. Not Sorry.

Sorry if you read all through this rambling. It’s more of a contemplative post and I’ve not done these in a while. I just needed to get it out there.

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Glenrothes 1989-2016, 26yo, 53.8% – Single Malts of Scotland

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve put anything on this here blog, but there’s going to be more on that in a future post. Hopefully the near future.

This Glenrothes was bottled by the guys at Speciality Drinks Limited, and contrary to most Glenrothes’ you know, it was aged in a bourbon cask. A hogshead in this case. The general consensus among a lot of people I know is that Glenrothes makes some good whisky, but generally they sell those casks to bottlers and only bottle rather shit whisky themselves.

Of course, someone is going to think “But this one I had from the distillery itself was pretty amazing”, but most of their vintages and NAS releases are far below par. Believe me. It’s true.

So, contrary to the rather bland official releases, let’s dive in to this quite amazing dram!

grssdl1989v2Sniff:
On the nose I first got a major hit of malted barley, but there was something fresh too. Some mint, and even chocolate (After Eight, anyone?). Also some cough candy and some salmiac. After that I got oak, an increasing amount of oak.

Sip:
The palate is rather smooth, more smooth than I expected for the ABV. There’s some punch though, it’s not all velvet. Oaky and quite dry with some dried baking spices. Also some white and red pepper. Oak, mint, menthol. A bitter edge too.

Swallow:
The finish is very old fashioned, classical. Quite rich with malt, mint and oak. Quite long too.

Well, I wasn’t too sure about this when I poured it, but boy this is an awesome dram. Maybe my favorite of the bunch so far (I’ve still got two Ledaigs to go). The whisky is quite complex with lots of gorgeous flavors and scents.

Sincerely a highly recommended dram. It’s a shame I’ve been overspending on all ends, and work on the house is taking up every bit of cash I would normally have, or a bottle would have been on its way by now.

90/100

Glenrothes 1989-2016, 26yo, Bourbon Hogshead #8172, 53.8%, bottled by Single Malts of Scotland and available from The Whisky Exchange for £ 115

Thanks to Speciality Drinks Limited for sending a sample!

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Millstone 2013-2016, Peated PX Cask, 56.6% – OB for Whisky in Leiden

Whisky in Leiden is the annual whisky festival hosted by Whiskysite.nl, or De Druiventuin, or whatever their exact name is. They’re an awesome and vast whisky shop in, you guessed it, Leiden.

Ever since Whisky Live NL moved back to The Hague they’ve been hosting the festival in the Pieterskerk. They also bottle at least one single cask of whisky, this year they even have two.

This Millstone bottling, from the Zuidam distillery in The Netherlands is last year’s release. It’s only three years old and could technically even be only two. Add to that that it a peated whisky from a PX cask, and you know you’re in for a wild ride.

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Image from WhiskyBase

Sniff:
There’s lots of oak, lots of sherry and quite a young spirity-ness. None of this is surprising. It’s bitter and sweet, with tobacco, charcoal, peat and dried prunes. Some cork, soil, and coffee beans. A rather clunky whisky.

Sip:
The palate is not as sharp as you’d expect, but it does have a serious bite. Lots of oak and peat, smoke and sherry. Sweet, with fruit and soil. So earthy too, with malt. Some mushrooms and beefy notes. Mocha beans.

Swallow:
The finish shows the youth of the whisky again, with lots of spirit. Sweet and fruity, plus all of the above.

There is so much happening in this whisky that there is absolutely no balance. Also, this whisky is quite boorish, so to say.

When this came out last year I bought it for a bottle share that only sold some three shares, so I had 40cl to drink myself. I only started to do that recently with my friend JPH when we were playing Magic: The Gathering till 3 AM. It works really well if you’re not paying a lot of attention. It demands some attention at least, and makes you realize that it’s a really great whisky to just sit, drink and enjoy.

While this whisky would’t really be the star of the show if you sit at a formal tasting in which you really start assessing a dram and looking for depth and balance. And while there’s not much depth, or balance, there is flavor by the boat load. Therefore it actually is a great little whisky.

I sincerely had fun drinking this, and finishing the bottle last weekend. I hope there’ll be more of this kind of stuff from the Zuidam family. As I once remarked with the most recent Malt Maniacs Awards: I should pay far more information to Zuidam’s whiskies.

86/100

Millstone 2013-2016, Peated PX Cask, 56.6%, OB for Whisky in Leiden 2016.

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Music in 2016

 

Normally I do these lists in the week between Christmas and New Year, but this year I only wrote a post about my Whisky of the Year in that week. This happened, in part, because I kept discovering new music in the last couple of weeks of the year, which I couldn’t listen to enough before writing a list. The biggest reason however, was that I got a bit tired of writing things since I was doing a lot of that for our club’s magazine.

So, yesterday I was talking to my friend TT about this and I decided I’m going to write the annual music top X list today. Last year was a year with quite a few releases that peaked my interest, but unfortunately it also was a year of records that didn’t really deliver.

The ones I had high hopes for but just didn’t really keep me interested were, for example, released by PJ Harvey, Regina Spektor, Bon Iver, The Veils, Marissa Nadler (x2), St. Paul & The Broken Bones and some others. Most of these records were pretty good, but just not as good as what came before.

Unlike last year where I could only select a top 7 and give a lot of others a shared eighth position, this year I am almost back to having a top ten. I’m almost at a top 10, but the tenth record I had initially selected is one that I’ve not spent enough time listening to, to justify it being in the list.


Initially I had written a paragraph about being back to ten records in my list. Then I decided to kick #10 out, because it felt that a lot of random records could fill that spot.

I wrote a new paragraph about there being nine, instead of seven last year. After that, while writing the entries below, I suddenly remembered a record that I recently discovered and have been listening to a lot, but somehow had not added to my Spotify list (which is my main source of this endeavor).

So, I should actually rewrite, or ctrl-Z enough to get my ‘we’re back to ten records’ paragraph back, but that would mean risking the loss of everything that’s below. So, sod it.

#10 Applewood Road – Applewood Road

I’m one-upping myself once again. In 2014 I had quite few country records in my list. Last year that went down a bit, but this I seem to be back at that. Applewood Road is a bit folky, a  bit bluegrass-y (since it’s quite sparse and recorded around a single microphone) and quite lovely.

 

#9 Fantastic Negrito – The Last Days of Oakland

Another quite ‘American’ record for which I don’t have a clue which genre it sits in. What I do know is that it’s bloody awesome to see him perform on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, and that the entire record is pretty brash, which makes it’s pretty great.

 

#8 The Deer – Tempest & Rapture

Yup, more Americana. Another quite gentle record, but one I’ve listened to quite a lot over the last couple of months. This one I only discovered in December or so, and especially Winter to Pry has a certain way of being quite dark, but sounding much lighter than it actually is. Which I like.

 

#7 Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat to Earth

This is some moody stuff. It’s a bit like a slow and more abstract version of PJ Harvey (who is writing lyrics that are a bit too tangible at the moment). It’s slow and maybe even a bit ambient. It works quite well for me when I’m trying to read for example, or just at work although I prefer work music to be a bit more up-tempo. But again, this is quite moody.

 

#6 Paul Cauthen – My Gospel

The most country record of my list. It’s not entirely ‘redneck’ and has some rock and soul influences too. What got me immediately is Paul Cauthen’s voice, which is incredibly deep and loud. It carries the same weight a trumpet can in a band. It carries the entire music, which is cool. I also like the album in total, with some really voluminous tracks on it.

 

#5 John Moreland – High on Tusla Heat

A bit less deep voiced than Paul Cauthen, but quite a gravelly voice to go with the sparse arrangements of mostly just a guitar. John Moreland sings about regular things, doubts, love and Oklahoma. And his love for Oklahoma. It’s pretty quiet and calm, but the songs are gorgeous.

 

#4 Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker

I don’t think I have much explaining to do for this one. I’ve been in love with Leonard Cohen’s songs for ages, and I think most people can (or should learn to) appreciate his beautiful lyrics. Even though his voice is less ‘singing’ and more ‘speaking’ towards the end of his life, it’s still gorgeous. It’s a fitting record for someone in his eighties writing a last chapter.

 

#3 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and Nick Cave’s many side projects have been my favorites for years. Last year his latest record came out, accompanies by ‘One More Time with Feeling’. A movie about him making a record in the aftermath of his son’s untimely death.

It’s quite a bleak record, and some songs don’t really resonate with me at all. However, there are some stellar tracks on the record as well (hence its #3 position). I wonder how this is going to work out live, in October…

 

#2 Mitski – Puberty 2

I don’t know anything about Mitski. I don’t know why the record is called Puberty 2, while there is no Puberty 1 to come before it. What I do know is that this is a great record. It’s taking some clues from older PJ Harvey records, I think. Based on the way the songs can be quite noisy and loud.

NPR’s All Songs Considered pointed me towards this record, and I thoroughly enjoy it. It’s been in my ‘phone playlist’ for a long time now. Don’t expect any poetic lyrics or anything, but just a good bit of indie rock music.

 

#1 Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

After not seeing this in the list earlier, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is here at pole position. I didn’t really expect much of the record after King of Limbs being a bit of a, well, less interesting record.

When this came out, though, it’s far more like the Radiohead of some years ago with quite the incredible level of song-craft.

 

The fun bit of doing this review in March, instead of in December is that I can already look forward a bit to the 2017 top 10. By the way things look now, it’s going to be quite amazing. Already there have been some stellar releases that have been on repeat at work and during commute (Valerie June, Courtney Marie Andrews, Laura Marling, Hurray for the Riff-Raff) and there’s a lot more coming in the coming 9.5 months…

The releases I’m looking forward to the most, and that I know of, are Old Crow Medicine Show, Jason Isbell, Future Islands, Arcade Fire, Grizzly Bear, Modest Mouse, St. Vincent, The National, and there’s probably going to be others.

If you have some suggestions for me, please let me know!

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Bunnahabhain 1988-2016, 28yo, 46.8% – Single Malts of Scotland

Another sample in the box of Rorschach samples from Speciality Drinks Ltd. was this old Bunnahabhain whisky. Seeing this got my interest peaked since the vintages from 1987 to 1989 are generally quite spectacular for Bunnahabhain. I’ve worked my way through quite a few of those over the last couple of years and I don’t think any of them disappointed.

So, another one, which I tried right after I tried that already very lovely Bruichladdich, just to set the bar even higher!

bunsdl1988v1Sniff:
On the nose it’s soft and creamy with hints of oak and vanilla. Some malt, and hints of iron. Slightly waxy too, with wood pulp, straw and barley. The barley hints are very crisp, like it’s fresh in the field instead of in a warehouse.

Sip:
The palate is smooth again (not surprising after trying a 50+% dram first…). Some oak, vanilla, cream. Even puff pastry, with a bit of a punch from the oak and a hint of black pepper. It gets a bit drier after a few seconds.

Swallow:
The finish shows vanilla again, with cream and lots of rich oak notes. Smooth and long with hints of spices.

Well, this kind of works (understatement). When I first got the hints of vanilla I was afraid this was going to be one of these hugely oak driven drams, that are matured to the brink of indifference. As in, some of these drams taste so much of American Oak that it no longer matters which spirit was put into it, whether it came from Speyside, the Highlands or Islay.

Luckily, that’s not the case here and while there is quite some vanilla, it’s also very balanced with all the other flavors that are there for the taking. An incredibly tasty dram that just sold out at The Whisky Exchange. Bummer.

89/100

Bunnahabhain 1988-2016, 28yo, 46.8%, cask 100229, Single Malts of Scotland.

Thanks to Speciality Drinks Ltd. for sending a sample!

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Jura 21, 44%

Jura is not one of my favorite distilleries. I got hugely turned off of them by some official 10 year old bottling from about a decade ago, and they’ve not been able to sway me back since.

I know they’re released some very old whiskies, which are supposedly incredible  The ones I’ve tasted were good, but not good enough to average out the shit from yonder year.

Also, the independent bottling that are around are either very expensive or heavily peated. Of the latter category there seems to be a lot, but for some reason I am always looking to be pleasantly surprised by a lightly peated or an unpeated one. You know, the style that is most of their core range.

Somehow, I though it was a good idea to buy a sample of this 21 year old a year ago or so (hence I assume it’s the 2016 release). Give it another try.

 

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Image from WhiskyBase

Sniff:
There’s an incredible scent of malt on the nose. Secondly there’s a lot of oak. I’m guessing both sherry and bourbon casks (at the time of writing I didn’t check, but it turns out to be correct). Some baking spices and a bit of a funky scent as well. A very light chili heat.

 

Sip:
The palate is smooth, with a light spicy heat. Again, lots of malted barley. The slightly funky scent translated into a much more funky flavor. Slightly earthy with mushrooms and wet soil. Moldy even. Quite oaky too.

Swallow:
The finish is more oaky than the palate, and has a bit of a dunnage flavor. So, oak, wet soil, mold, mushrooms and cobwebs.

Weird! Well, not really, since this is the profile I expect from Jura, and it’s not something I actively dislike. In a lot of cases I actually quite like it. In this case, however, I don’t think the whisky is rich enough to carry it. It’s a bit of a thin whisky that tastes like it is something incredible, but watered down a bit too much. This surprises me since it’s still bottled at 44%. Not very high, but at least it’s not 40%…

This whisky hasn’t convinced me of the brand, but it’s quite a lot better than the ones that put me off (the old 1o year old and a bottling of Jura Earth, bottled for Feis Ile 2008).

83/100

Jura 21, 2006 release, 44%. No longer available.

 

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Benrinnes 1982-2009, 26yo, 57.4% – The Bottlers

Benrinnes is one of those Diageo distilleries that isn’t bottled as a single malt often. Apart from some Flora & Fauna releases and the occassional Premium Edition, you have to turn to independent bottlers. Even those guys don’t have too many of them. They’re not exactly rare, but you don’t find them on every street corner.

About 11 years ago, when I got more and more into drinking ‘luxury’ whisky, Gordon & MacPhail released a black as coal Benrinnes in their Reserve series. It was a special release for The Netherlands and it sat on the shelf at my local dealer. I had been eye-balling it for quite a while when my wife decided to give the bottle to me.

Back then you could buy a bottle like that for 100 Euros…

Anyway, it was a stellar whisky, and when I got this sample in I had another bit of Benrinnes to drink that had been very, very heavily sherried. Quite dark, but from a refill butt, and a couple of  years younger.

64365-big

Image from WhiskyBase

Sniff:
Slightly dusty with spices and dried fruit. In short, sherry. Spiced cake with a bit of mint. Almost Japanese in style. You know, that rich plum wine and huge oak notes. Incredibly rich, but the mint gives a bit of crispness. It cuts it, so to say. Also some pine notes.

Sip:
The palate is incredibly dry and quite sharp. Lots of oak, lots of sherry and some chili heat. Dried fruits and later that mint comes back too. Some red fruits, cherries and cream.

Swallow:
The finish is full and rich. Again, this has everything. Oak, fruits, spices, mint crispness, sherry richness. And again, I find this quite Karuizawa like.

Well, this is bloody awesome. There no such thing as balance, but it’s just incredibly good. Especially if you’re into Japanese whisky. The sherry is massive, and all the derived flavors of (what I’m guessing) European oak, are too. Vast amounts of oak, dried fruits, baking spices. The mint note is incredibly well placed too, otherwise this would have scored much lower.

Of course, a bottle of this stuff has now risen in popularity so it costs you some 500 bucks to get it. Unfortunately, but with this kind of whisky, I can even understand it rising in price and popularity, but 500 bucks is a ridiculous amount of money for a bottle of hooch. Even one as good as this.

91/100

Benrinnes 1982-2009, 26yo, Refill Sherry Butt 3229, 57.4%, The Bottlers. Available for 500 from the WhiskyBase Marketplace

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